NBA 08

Hooray for basketball, America’s second favorite fall-winter sport. A new season of the National Basketball Association (NBA) has arrived, though not many people will notice. Football is America’s sport. The National Football League (NFL) and NCAA football are, respectively, the king and prince of our sport aristocracy. Even college basketball, with the wild crowd nicknames and arenas, produces a more exciting atmosphere then the average NBA game. It is not until after the Bowl Championship Series (the often criticized culmination of the college football season), the Super Bowl (the “world” championship game of the NFL), and March Madness (the NCAA basketball championship tournament that is the second greatest productivity killer in American offices behind are over that some sports fans in America start caring about the NBA.

This makes the NBA an afterthought to the average American sports fan. Similarly, video games based on the NBA often feel like an afterthought when compared with their football counterparts. NBA 08 plays better than last year’s NBA 07, and as an added bonus, it even looks a little better. However, it still isn’t quite there yet. The biggest complaint is not with gameplay, but with the fact that there are players missing from rosters. The point of an NBA simulation is to be able to play with NBA players and make them do similar things to those that we get to see them do in real life. How am I supposed to do that when I don’t have them on my team? Licensing may be tough, but if the game can get the NBA logo and seal on its cover, it should have the full rosters.

This is probably an issue that can be solved with roster downloads, but the game should come out of the box with the full teams. I am a Timberwolves fan and they will probably be the worst team in the NBA this season. That is not hyperbole; there is just no way that they are going to have a winning record. Still, I should be able to play with 2007 Final Four MVP Corey Brewer on my team. Too bad he’s absent.

Also missing is Yi Jianlian, a superstar in China. He gained notoriety over the summer when he whined about his playing time and the lack of Asians in Milwaukee. In his case it makes sense to leave him out of the game because he didn’t sign a contract for the longest time. That Corey Brewer omission just bugs me though, as I was looking to glitch the Wolves and play Gerald Green, Brewer, and Ricky Davis all together and just try to dunk all the time. Now, Davis got traded for “former video game advertisement star” Antoine Walker and that setup can never be realized.

Making interesting lineups, like playing five perimeter players and shooting threes on every offensive possession, adds hours of fun. Doing this, almost every team, except the T’Wolves, can be transformed into the Phoenix Suns. If only that could be done in real life, maybe more people would watch pro basketball. Instead, it’s a game played by giants. Not just American giants, but giants from all over the world. From Argentina to Germany to Spain to China to Canada, yes Canada has some ballers, basketball is becoming more and more of an international game. The ratings for NBA games, especially the finals, have been going down the past couple of years. Last year the ratings were some of the lowest ever, even with Lebron “King” James playing in his first NBA finals. The answer to Air Jordan’s departure has not been the King, but the globalization of the NBA. Basketball’s popularity in America is beginning to spread to the rest of the world, though football in every form is always going to be numero uno.

Lebron may not be able to save the NBA on his lonesome, but he’s probably the most media savvy and personable player in the league. Though he may be media savvy, however, he’s not quite as multimedia savvy. In NBA 08 he’s not nearly as unstoppable getting to the basket as he is in real life. Also, I don’t think Shaq is ever going to kick his legs out spread eagle and dunk it on a fast break ever again, but I was able to run the court with him repeatedly. The players have become attributes. This is alright for the more versatile players, but the one-dimensional players should have certain restrictions.

NBA 08 does have plenty of features. The PS3-exclusive “Game of the Week” lets players go at each other online while they watch the real life version of the same game on TNT. It doesn’t have to be played that way, but it can. I bet the Timberwolves have no games that are candidates for the “Game of the Week”. The game also looks better than any other NBA simulation out there. The player movement is the smoothest I’ve seen yet, even if it’s not too realistic. Centers generally can’t take more than three dribbles without losing the ball in real life. The exception is coverboy Amare Stoudemire, who is one of those players who defies position. Still, just because he’s on the cover doesn’t mean that I should be able to isolate him on the wing and take KG one on one. As the players get tired, their shots stop falling. The defender also has a say in how tough the shot is, which means that just because I have Steve Nash doesn’t mean I can consistently make it rain from three point land — unless I’m playing the Timberwolves.

This series is getting better as Sony abandons the “The Life” feature and subtitle. I do miss those old commercials for it, though. Regardless, if Sony’s NBA franchise keeps improving at this rate, in a couple of years it could be the premiere basketball title instead of just the best looking one.

RATING 7 / 10